Editorial: Barking over dog park; Tulsi Gabbard top nonvoter; SNAP changes in Hawaii
Every Saturday, we’ll present these short-take editorials to reflect on some of the week’s news.
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Barking over dog park
Many elements in the Ala Moana Regional Park’s master plan already in place meet the city’s intent: to improve the aging site while maintaining the “People’s Park” vibe. Clearly, the 119-acre site is benefiting from upgrades ranging from renovated bathhouses to the repaving and reconstructing of Ala Moana Park Drive, which had been riddled with potholes.
But community debate has flared over a few pieces of the plan that would create new features.
One point of contention, which erupted a year ago, seemed to ease last weekend when officials announced plans to pull from the lineup a proposed public-private partnership to build a 1-acre playground with swings and other equipment, including some designed for special-needs kids. The plans envisioned close-to-the-ground mini “zip cruise” lines and a splash pad.
This week, though, at a public hearing on the park’s special management area permit application, a few fresh gripes surfaced, including one about a plan to install a dog park at the ewa end. One parkgoer complained that the permit application, which describes the feature as contained to less than half an acre, “is so small it will not be a dog park but just a canine latrine.”
While creating what would be Oahu’s sixth off-leash park sounds like a solid idea, the parkgoer has a point in that more space may be in order.
According to a 2013 Hawaiian Humane Society study that looked at optimal size, location and other factors, dog parks generally should cover at least 1 acre, allowing enough space to separate large dogs from small ones. On Oahu the largest dog park is in Hawaii Kai, at 1.65 acres.
Gabbard top nonvoter
The U.S. House of Representatives has adjourned until 9 a.m. Thursday, locking in place certain statistics of interest to congressional trackers: how many votes were missed.
And, according to the nonprofit news organization ProPublica, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has missed 37.8% of her votes during the current Congress — No. 1 among the 433 members.
Of course, it hasn’t helped that only about a week after Congress convened Jan. 3, she announced her intention to run for president. Being on the campaign trail can explain a lot.
Gabbard, who is serving her fourth term as the Democratic representative for the 2nd Congressional District, has earned a reputation for going against the grain. Most notable was her decision to meet with Syria’s brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad to urge peace for the war-torn country.
Now she’s being noticed again, by some among her critics who say that in pursuing the White House, she’s shirking her current job duties. As a practical matter, her constituents may not have much leverage, given that she’s not seeking re-election.
ProPublica notes official explanations given for absences. For some of Gabbard’s, there was military service listed: She is still with the Hawaii Army National Guard.
She did show up for Wednesday’s impeachment showdown, but registered as “present” rather than voting. That put her in the spotlight again, but not entirely in a good way. Some of her detractors wonder what the rest of her final term will bring.
SNAP changes in isles
The effects of the Trump administration’s proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — informally known as “food stamps” — will be felt in Hawaii, but to varying degrees.
That’s because each change alters a particular way of determining SNAP eligibility and, say some experts, the effect is worse in some cases more than others.
The most recent alarm sounded over proposed tightening of waivers from work requirements to receive food-stamp benefits. If waivers are increasingly withheld from families, several states are going to feel a real pinch, according to a study by the Urban Institute.
Hawaii? Not so much, said Nicole Woo, senior policy analyst at Hawai‘i Appleseed. That’s because few beneficiaries here use this waiver.
Neither does another proposal, Woo said: This would alter a utility allowance that factors into a family’s adjusted income and thus SNAP eligibility. Hawaii is one of five states that doesn’t use that standard allowance in its calculations.
But what would be likely to hurt is a proposal to eliminate waivers from certain asset tests, enabling applicants to get benefits while acquiring assets such as a car. And if families don’t qualify for SNAP, they can lose other benefits such as free school meals for children that generally come with it.
Hawaii has joined a lawsuit challenging this plan, so the change is on hold pending litigation. The case bears watching, on behalf of the estimated 7,200 households that could be affected.